When will a Waziristan operation be ‘suitable’?


Taliban fighters in South Waziristan. Reuters photo.

With four large-scale Taliban attacks in Pakistan since Oct. 4, including the brazen assault on the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the Pakistani government and military are still talking about considering discussing the possibility of issuing orders to provide for a principled decision to launch an offensive against Hakeemullah Mehsud’s faction of the Taliban in South Waziristan. Here is what Major General Athar Abbas, the military’s top spokesman, said today (via the Associated Press of Pakistan):

Pakistan Army is determined to undertake military operation against terrorists in South Waziristan at a suitable time, and the desperate attempts by the terrorists cannot deter its resolve, Director General Inter Services Public Relation (ISPR) Major General Ather Abbass said on Monday. “The government has taken principal decision to undertake operation in South Waziristan – it is now matter of time and the military will decided when to initiate the operation,” he said while addressing a media briefing at ISPR Rawalpindi.

“We are judging the situation there (South Waziristan) and an appropriate action will be taken at a suitable time,” he added.

He said terrorist attack on General Headquarters (GHQ) was a desperate attempt by terrorists which was successfully and effectively foiled by the Army that has complete resolve to safeguard the national interest at any cost.

However, he said the target of the terrorists was to make hostage some senior officers at GHQ with their ultimate aim to demand the release of top terrorists who have been arrested by the government.

“They had given list of over hundred top terrorist leaders, whom they wanted to release from the government,” he added.

When the Taliban conduct a suicide attack at the World Food Program headquarters in Islamabad, follow it up days later with a massive suicide attack at a bazaar in Peshawar, then launch a military assault on the top military headquarters, and follow that up a day later with another massive suicide attack an on Army convoy in Shangla, you might think that a sense of urgency would exist.

Remember that the military and the interior minister began talking up a Waziristan offensive at the end of September, before these attacks took place. Actually, they have been talking up a Waziristan offensive since June.

In fact, back in June, the military announced: “The government has taken a principled decision to launch a military operation” in South Waziristan. Today’s statement by Abbas is virtually identical to the statement he made in mid-June. Four months later, some are looking for principled action, and not just against one faction in South Waziristan; the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is but one part of a larger problem. As the Rawalpindi attack showed (and no, it wasn’t a South Waziristan-based operation) the Taliban have deep roots in Punjab, too.

For a quick checklist on what to look for in an upcoming offensive, the challenges facing the Pakistani government, and the limitations to addressing the vast extremist threat facing Pakistan, see “A new Waziristan offensive?”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • KaneKaizer says:

    The longer the Pakistanis wait, the less suitable South Waziristan will be for any kind of offensive with winter fast approaching. Either they don’t know what “suitable” is, or they’re waiting for next spring.

  • F says:

    The potential targets in Waziristan are mostly tactical/operational level targets. Those in Baluchistan are strategic level.
    Unfortunately, the Pakistani military is such a strong political player, is so intertwined with militants, and has such suspicious relations with the west that such foot dragging is to be expected. But then Pakistan has its own interests and should be expected to play to those interests.

  • Spooky says:

    I think they ARE waiting for spring actually. To go now when Winter is a month away is just asking for defeat.
    Of course, it will hurt their PR for them not to move immediately after GHQ is attacked, so it remains to be seen which notion will win over: need to prove themselves or attacking at the more opportune time.
    Frankly, I think the attack in Rawalpindi was a Taliban attempt to up the timetable on Waziristan so as to force them into a winter war. Granted, winter isn’t as bad in Waziristan as it would be in Swat, but they were fighting in Swat just AFTER winter. Fighting in Waziristan just before and during, adding that there are more terrorists that are also better trained…and things can get dicey.
    The other theory is that manpower may be a problem. We have to resign ourselves to the fact that they will never pull more troops away from the Eastern border. There was a well-written analysis somewhere about just how many troops Pakistan has to spare, and it isn’t much more than they already have. And what they already have is busy occupying/holding the Malakand Division and Bajaur, unable to move because the civilian government has not yet reestablished its writ apparently. So they have to wait for that too.

  • Daddums says:

    Somebody’s going to have to make noises louder than the Taliban bombs and ambulance sirens. It’s time to threaten a little rug-tugging on the PAK General Staff.
    That and some assistance in the form of some J. Crew winter woolies should move them onto the offensive. But they have to make sure the Tallies have time to move south and east into the refugee centers before unleashing the onslaught, you see.
    Gotta get some ‘gung-ho’ spirit going with these boys or we’ll be fighting the same battles come the tricentennial.
    But then who wants the money train to stop running eh? And where would the boys be without the bang-bang? At home and out of work?

  • Spooky says:

    The only way to get them as gung ho as necessary is to change the mindset, not close the money tap. Stopping funds would just make things worse for us.


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